A Venezuelan state-owned oil company, heavily indebted to the Russian oil giant Rosneft, made a $500,000 donation to Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities, it has emerged.
Foreign donations are banned under US law, but the Venezuelan company, PdVSA, made the donation through a US affiliate, Citgo Petrol, soon after offering a nearly 50% stake in Citgo to Rosneft as collateral for a $1.5bn loan.
These transactions come at a time when PdVSA and the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro is desperate for cash as oil revenues shrink and civil unrest grows. The influx of money from Rosneft is helping keep PdVSA and Maduro afloat.
If Venezuela defaults on the debt, Rosneft could stand to gain a controlling stake in Citgo, a prospect that has caused anxiety among both Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress. Under current circumstances, however, Rosneft could not take ownership of its shares in Citgo – which owns three refineries, as well as pipelines and oil terminals – because the Russian firm and its boss, Igor Sechin, are under US sanctions linked to Moscow’s military intervention in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.